Belfast Telegraph

DUP chief Foster 'passed draft agreement document to me,' says Michelle O'Neill

DUP leader Arlene Foster (right) and Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill (Owen Humphreys/PA)
DUP leader Arlene Foster (right) and Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill has said Arlene Foster presented her with a hard copy of the contentious "draft agreement" in the days before the DUP leader collapsed the talks.

The MLA was addressing the media in Brussels as a delegation of her party travelled to meet with Brexit talks negotiator Michel Barnier.

She said Arlene Foster - as has been claimed by journalist Eamonn Mallie - passed her the document on February 9.

The party's Northern Ireland leader said the document was the result of hours of negotiation.

“It's our crystal clear view we had an agreement, we had an accommodation that would have allowed the institutions to be restored and let us get into dealing with the day-day issues the public want us to see us deal with," she told the BBC.

"I am in no doubt the document that Arlene handed to me and then was emailed is the document that would have formed the basis for the institutions to be restored."

The DUP has denied there was ever an agreement in place between the two parties for restoring the Northern Ireland power-sharing institutions.

Journalist Mallie published headers of emails claiming to show a "draft agreement" was being referred to by the parties and later published a segment of an email which said the DUP leader has passed the document to Ms O'Neill claiming it to be "incontrovertible proof" a deal was on the cards.

Last week, responding to the claims his leader passed the document to Michelle O'Neill, Nigel Dodds said he would be "highly surprised" if that was the case.

Arlene Foster has always maintained there was no agreement in place she felt comfortable with that she could pass to her party officers and members for consideration.

The Sinn Fein vice president said the DUP's public version of events "did not add up".

The DUP has been asked to comment.

It has said the talks collapsed because there "wasn't a fair and balanced deal" and it remains ready to form a government. The party has said the focus is now on setting a budget from Westminster.

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